Judicial harassment against the members of Open Russia movement


On 21st January 2019, the first criminal investigation under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code (participation in the activities of an undesirable organisation) was filed against human rights defender Anastasia Shevchenko. Anastasia is the Coordinator of the Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) movement in Rostov-on-Don. She has been under house arrest since then. 

Since the adoption of the law in July 2015, several organisations have been added to the list of “undesirable” organisations. In April 2017, UK-registered Open Russia and Open Russia Civic Movement were declared undesirable by Russia's Prosecutor General’s Office. 

A few months later, in March 2019, Maxim Vernikov, former coordinator of the ”Open Russia” Regional Center, was taken to the Investigation Committee for interrogation and is facing the same charge as Shevchenko. 

Amnesty International said

“The criminal case against Anastasia Shevchenko is profoundly flawed, and by forging ahead with it regardless, the Russian authorities are creating an abhorrent precedent. Anastasia has lost her freedom and yet she has not committed any recognizable criminal offence. The authorities are casting their net ever more widely, with another former Otkrytaya Rossiya’s employee, Maksim Vernikov, now also facing criminal proceedings. We call on Russia to stop this increasingly ugly persecution." 

On 18 March 2019, a court convicted human rights defender Oyub Titiev to 4 years in a prison. Titiev, is the head of the Chechen office of the Human Rights Centre Memorial in Grozny. He was charged with large-scale drug possession under Article 228 of the Criminal Code. As reported previously by the CIVICUS Monitor, Titiev was arrested on 9th January 2018 with police claiming he was in possession of a package containing 180 grams of a substance smelling like a drug. Titiev had previously denied the accusations.

The European Union issued a statement calling for his immediate and unconditional release and stating: 

"The sentencing of Oyub Titiev is directly connected to his human rights work for Memorial, an organisation that has been the subject of ongoing intimidation and harassment in the North Caucasus and beyond. We also believe that Mr Titiev has not received a fair trial. His sentencing continues a trend of arrests, attacks and discrediting of human rights defenders and journalists who work in that region of the Russian Federation." 

Peaceful Assembly

On 10th March 2019, thousands of people took to the streets in Moscow to protest proposed legislation that critics believe could "lead to censorship and create an 'online Iron Curtain' that cuts Russians off from the rest of the world". 

On 12th February  2019, the State Duma adopted in first reading a bill with the aim to " create a domestic internet". The government stated that the legislation will improve cyber-security and "will reduce Russia's reliance on internet servers in the United States". 

Reports indicated that at least 16 individuals were arrested ahead of the protest.